Water conservation is a critical part of long-term health in any ecosystem, and it literally starts in individual backyards. Lawns of all types tend to be water-hungry, but a little extra care during the summer can significantly reduce consumption for cheaper, more environmentally conscious turf that’s still vibrant and beautiful.
The hot summer sun quickly evaporates water. Plants that are watered in the heat of the day may also suffer from a type of sunburn that leaves them looking dry and dull. A lawn that is watered in the evening once it’s out of the direct sun has hours to utilize the excess moisture, and typically dries sufficiently by morning to prevent fungus or heat damage. Lawns with an automatic sprinkler system can be set to irrigate in the very early morning hours to allow for the most efficient use of water without evaporation, but still allowing any excess to evaporate before causing problems with fungus.
Sprinklers are popular because they are convenient, but a significant amount of water evaporates before it ever hits the ground. Even nighttime watering doesn’t entirely address the problem. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems deliver just as much volume, but the water has minimal exposure to the air before it seeps into the ground.
Short-cropped grass offers a polished golf course look that really makes the lawn pop, and it’s fine for early spring when there’s more precipitation and newly-seeded grass still needs to spread. However, the mowing height should get incremental adjustments, slowly lengthening the grass as the season wears on. Longer blades help hold water in, keeping the ground moist for longer. Some homeowners also opt to leave grass clippings on the ground instead of bagging them for an additional moisture barrier.
The majority of homeowners turn on the irrigation whenever the lawn appears dry. Most have no idea how much their particular variety of turf actually needs. Grass may need anywhere from a half-inch to three inches of water during each watering, depending on the type. A calculation of irrigation flow rates can help determine how long the grass should be watered in each of 2-3 weekly irrigations. Watering systems with a timer and/or moisture gauge work best to limit water waste.
For new lawns, water conservation starts at the very beginning. In dry, hot areas, care should be taken to choose only grass varieties that grow well in those conditions. Water consumption may also be reduced by seeding more drought-tolerant varieties into an existing lawn with high-demand grasses.